Impact of South Africa's Promotion of Access to Information Act after Three and a Half Years: A Perspective

  • Rolf Sorensen South African History Archive (SAHA)


The article concerns South Africa's relatively new, and largely untested Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). The South African History Archive (SAHA) is the most frequent user of PAIA. About half its requests are for others. Comments and suggestions on PAIA noted by SAHA overwhelmingly concern implementing PAIA, and not amendments. Issues regarding record keeping involve implementing and maintaining appropriate standards and training staff on these standards and PAIA, and extending the scope and content of organisations' obligation to produce a manual to facilitate requests for information. Legislation on privacy should not inhibit preservation of and access to significant records more than strictly necessary. PAIA's provisions for automatically disclosing information without request should be enhanced. Legislation allowing more liberal access than PAIA should be maintained. Issues concerning records created during the Apartheid era include the need for an audit and voluntarily disclosure, removing exemption of Cabinet records from disclosure and limiting the period for which their disclosure can be refused, release of operatives of agencies responsible for state security from undertakings of secrecy and replacing legislation passed during the Apartheid era which restricts access to information more than PAIA, with legislation consistent with the constitutional right to information. Cheap and accessible dispute-resolution under PAIA without litigation, and allowing more streamlined interpretations of PAIA's provisions on issues such as confidentiality, privacy and the public interest is required. Relief from fees under PAIA should be based on income and purpose of access.

ESARBICA Journal Vol.22 2003: 50-63

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eISSN: 0376-4753